2021 International Fire Code (ICC IFC-2021)

Smoke rising above old brick factory fire that didn't follow the 2021 International Fire Code (ICC IFC-2021).

The International Fire Code (IFC) is active throughout the United States, as it is in use or has been adopted in 41 states, as well as the District of Columbia, New York City, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

What is the Current International Fire Code?

The latest edition of the International Fire Code is ICC IFC-2021. As with previous editions, ICC IFC-2021 is a model code that presents minimum safety guidelines for new and existing buildings, facilities, storage, and processes. As a design document, the 2021 IFC addresses fire prevention, fire protection, life safety, and safe storage in these venues, limiting the potential hazards present.

In the jurisdictions where stipulations from the IFC regulate fire safety requirements, noncompliance is a violation of legislation, and thus can result in fines. More tragically, however, the lack of dutiful effort in preventing and managing fire hazards can wage unnecessary damage and even cost human lives.

Fires are always going to occur. We can prevent them as much as possible, and a substantial deal of effort is already doing this, through legislation, standards, and even just safer and more responsible practices, but there is no possible way to prevent every fire. As these surely unwanted ignitions may be unavoidable, maintaining the life safety of building occupants, protecting emergency responders, and limiting the damage to a building and its contents—all confronted through the content of ICC IFC-2021—are not means of aid that anyone would want to impede or diminish.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the updates made to new I-Codes are added to make their guidelines safer, or to provide clarity and ease of compliance for the user, which would ultimately also make the code safer. Therefore, even though ICC IFC-2021, has just been released and may have not yet been adopted by the legislative bodies that are currently making use of the 2018 edition or other past versions, following its improved guidelines is useful for assuring further safety.

International Fire Code: 2021 Changes

The 2021 International Fire Code revises the 2018 edition of the same document. It has gone through the following changes of note:

  • Requirements for additive manufacturing (3D printing) operations were provided.
  • Flame propagation performance of permanently installed artificial combustible vegetation on roofs or in close proximity to buildings is now required to be verified when surpassing certain heights.
  • Revisions were made to provisions for emergency responder communications to reflect their expansion beyond radio systems.
  • Clarifications were made to sprinkler requirements for the storage, manufacture, and sale of upholstered furniture and mattresses.
  • New requirement was added for an automatic sprinkler system in open parking garages exceeding a certain fire area threshold.
  • Energy storage system (ESS) requirements were refined.
  • New Chapter 40, “Storage of Distilled Spirits and Wines,” was added.
  • Construction fire safety provisions were reorganized and expanded with an emphasis on the owner’s responsibilities.

Users of the 2021 International Fire Code can find all other changes clearly marked in the code document through solid vertical lines in the margins and other marginal markings.

ICC IFC-2021 is entirely compatible with all other I-Codes developed and published by the International Code Council (ICC).

ICC IFC-2021: 2021 International Fire Code is available on the ANSI Webstore. Users can also acquire the IFC bundled with most other I-Codes as the ICC International Building Code Package (IBC).

International Fire Code: 2018 Changes

For anyone needing to make use of the previous edition of this code, some of the major changes to the 2018 International Fire Code, ICC IFC-2018 included:

  • Hazards related to outdoor pallet storage, higher education laboratories, mobile food trucks, and plant processing and extraction activities were addressed by new provisions.
  • New thresholds related to fire areas have been introduced for sprinkler protection of Group E occupancies.
  • Manual fire alarm systems in Group A occupancies became needed not only when the occupant load is 300 or more but also where the occupant load exceeds 100 above or below the lowest level of exit discharge.
  • A manual fire alarm system and an automatic smoke detection system became no longer needed in Group R-4 occupancies.
  • Mass Notification Requirements for college and university buildings was added.
  • New Chapter 12 on Energy Systems—for the installation, operation, and maintenance of energy systems used for generating or storing energy—was added.
  • Guidelines for gas detection systems were revised to more accurately reflect industry practice.

Commentary to the International Fire Code

As a convenient reference for anyone involved with the design or construction of buildings, a companion document to the IFC, ICC IFC-2018 Codes/Commentary Vols 1/2: International Fire Code, 2018—Codes And Commentary, offers commentary to support the information outlined in the 2018 code.

This includes discussions on the full meaning and implications of the code , guidelines suggesting effective application, the consequences of not adhering to the code, and illustrations.

You can learn more about the Commentary to the International Fire Code document here.

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8 thoughts on “2021 International Fire Code (ICC IFC-2021)
  1. I work in a public library. Our IFC codes are from 2009. Is this worth keeping or should we get the newest version of the code? Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.

    1. Hello, based on your email address, I assume you are based in Pennsylvania. PA currently has adopted the 2009 edition of the IFC statewide, so it would be best to keep that code. However, while the 2009 IFC is necessary for regulatory compliance, the 2018 edition contains information that might be useful for organizations to follow while assuring safety in new and existing buildings. Therefore, it may be of use to have both.

  2. I am trying to find some type of code to see if it is mandatory to sprinkle a chiller that is built inside of a open sprinkled building

  3. Can you explain the classification of EPS with flame retardants with respect to indoor “high stack” storage requirements? I believe that the addition of flame retardants does not make EPS non-conbustible? Thank you for your assistance.

  4. Hi. We’re trying to find our requirements in PA for a small brewpub, occupancy under 50 and not having any luck. Thanks

    1. Section 2310.4 is “Fueling of marine vehicles at other than approved marine motor fuel-dispensing facilities,” being broken up into “2310.4.1 Class I liquid fuels” and “2310.4.2 Class II or III liquid fuels.”

  5. Hello, I am looking for direction on finding and helping understand the codes for a rooming house for 16 or less occupants? So that I can understand if I will be required to have sprinkler systems, a cellular fire alarm, smoke alarm, and pull fire alarm systems added to a facility I plan to use for a residence for addiction recovery.

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